Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Trouble with Hoarding

I am not a hoarder. I love to go through my closets and drawers and give things away. As I lost much of the extra weight I had been carrying around the last few years, I was delighted to pull things out of my wardrobe and pass them on to friends and family members. It not only made room for some new things, it just freed up space. And I like to have a little wiggle room. In a small house like mine, there's not a whole lot of that.

Michael, on the other hand, was a bit of a hoarder. Not like those poor souls you see on TLC, but the kind of person who did not throw out paperwork that was years and years old, or get rid of clothing that no longer fit or was out of fashion. On top of that, as a professional musician, he had lots of equipment, instruments, and music.

I have spent a lot of time in the last few years, both since he passed and before, going through his things trying to create some wiggle room in our my home and garage. It has been a huge undertaking, and I'm probably not even halfway there even though he's been gone for more than two years.

Today his brother Stephen came by to bring down more than twenty bankers boxes that have been stored in the loft space of my garage. The boxes I asked him to retrieve this time were boxes in which Michael had stored receipts and tax returns. They go back to the late 1980s. On Sunday, Michael's sister Cathie will come by to go through the boxes with me before we have their contents shredded. I want to be sure that there is nothing of sentimental value in the boxes before we discard them - pictures, for example. In my desire to find such treasures, I looked through just a couple of boxes today, and for my eagerness I was rewarded by finding a stack of letters he'd kept from two previous girlfriends.


That's the trouble with hoarding.

Most of the letters go back well before our time, but it still hurt to read them. I wish I hadn't done so. All afternoon I've been having an imaginary conversation with Michael about how it makes me sad and angry to find those things, and why couldn't he have tossed those things before he brought his stuff into our home. In our imaginary conversation he takes full responsibility for my hurt feelings and apologizes up and down for hanging on to them. I know that's what he'd say to me if he could.

So here's a word for those of you who are hanging on to the past. Purge the letters and the pictures from your private collection. I'm not talking about momentos from a spouse who has passed. That's part of your family history. I'm talking about momentos from relationships prior to your marriage. Imagine how your husband or wife would feel weeks, months, or years after your death when they read tender words penned to you by someone else. Imagine how they will feel to see your smiling face next to "her" or "his" smiling face in an old photo. I'll tell you. It will sting. It will cause them to have to process things once again. Things they had hoped were put to rest.

You can't take anything with you. What you leave behind becomes the responsibility of your spouse and/or your children. Think about your possessions, and if they are not something that is God honoring, or spouse honoring, throw it out. Don't put it off. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow.


  1. Thinking of you and saying a prayer... I totally understand... LOVE YOU To the MOON and back..

  2. I'm sure that was a double punch to the gut...but do you think he even remembered they were there? Probably not. Still, I'm sorry you had to find them. Two steps forward...three steps back.

    Hope you are enjoying your summer and being with your precious little one.

  3. This is great advice, Joannah! It's even more meaninful with your experience attached to it. I'm not a horder, I'm just lazy. Maybe it's time to go through a few things. Honestly, I don't even know what I've saved and what I've tossed. I have a feeling I've held on to lots of things that need to go though.


  4. Haha! Typo...hoarder! giggles....!


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